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Brexit border protection IN PERIL now that those migrants the UK didn’t want are the 'HERO WORKERS' of Covid-19 crisis

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
Brexit border protection IN PERIL now that those migrants the UK didn’t want are the 'HERO WORKERS' of Covid-19 crisis
The most divisive issue of Brexit, the overhaul of the migration system to take back control of our borders, is causing friction again as the migrants it aimed to keep out now find themselves the frontline heroes of the pandemic.

Four years after it became the most divisive topic in British political debate, legislation ending the right to freedom of movement for EU citizens to come and live, work and settle in the UK was introduced to the House of Commons today but, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the law it proposes will be dead on arrival.

Because the very people the legislation was imagined to be preventing from coming to the UK in their thousands, the unskilled, poorly-educated low earners of Europe and elsewhere, have had a social re-evaluation thanks to the frontline roles they play in our labour force as we battle Covid-19.

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The new points-based system proposed by Home Secretary Priti Patel as “firmer, fairer and simpler” than the current immigration regime, has been sold as the ultimate solution to allow UK people to “take back control” of their borders.

The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill aims to prevent any old bobbins from simply fronting up to UK passport control with a believable story and a suitcase before being handed the keys to the golden kingdom.

Sure, that’s not an ideal scenario but the problem with those who, it was argued in the Brexit debate, are the root cause of many of our social problems, housing shortages and unemployment is that they do those jobs that we have now realised are important to keeping things running.

The 180,000 NHS and care workers in England and Wales alone, shop workers, refuse collectors and bus drivers may not have university degrees or enjoy high-earner status but suddenly they have assumed such consideration that we happily stand out front of our houses each Thursday evening and bang pans or clap in support of their very existence.

Among our number is Boris Johnson, the same person who back in the heat of Brexit battle claimed that those who perform these types of jobs were the folk we would prefer not to have working or living here, when those roles could be filled by British workers instead.

Now, pressure is growing on the government to ease off on these low-skilled employees when it comes to their right to live here. A YouGov poll shows 54 percent of people in favour of loosening immigration restrictions for those workers defined as “essential” during this crisis. 

They are now being portrayed as everyday heroes who should be immune to the vagaries and strange demands of British society.

Clap for identity politics

But let’s not pretend we’re clapping in support of something that 52 percent of Britons, the PM included, voted against at the 2016 Referendum.

It seems that among the myriad symptoms caused by Covid-19, the loss of smell, dry mouth and hacking cough, there is now amnesia.

Has the role of immigration in the Brexit result been forgotten? Professor Matt Goodwin’s key issue diagram comes to mind.

While the liberals consider immigration a topic infused with race, the truth is it’s not. And to use that to close down those who want to discuss immigration, or somehow make its debate central to the nature of employment during a pandemic is wrong.

We have the ultra-woke You Clap For Me Now ‘poem’ on YouTube accusing us all of racism, and now politicians like shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds calling out Priti Patel for apparently making “workers in the NHS and the care sector feel unwelcome in this country, as well as labelling retail workers, carers, local government workers, refuse collectors, and many more as ‘low skilled’ - the very same workers who have been keeping this country running throughout the crisis.”

This is the recipe list of class, race and political ideology ingredients that cook up into a perfect liberal stew tasting largely of identity while salted liberally with intolerance for alternative views.

Their logic is that to have one of these newly “essential” jobs you really must be an immigrant. Then there is the conflation of importance between NHS roles and those in the care sector with say, someone who works at a coffee shop or collects household bins.

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These are not all like-for-like jobs. To call them “low-skilled” is not a slur, it’s a reality, no matter how much you’d like to reimagine the demands put on our bin men or the teenage barista pouring your latte.

Sure, I appreciate having my multiple wheelie bins emptied and I even put signs on them recently saying, “Thanks to our brilliant bin men.” While I’m grateful for the work that they do, (which, incidentally, I pay for) the result has been that they return the bins to my driveway neatly, as I’d expect, rather than leave them scattered down the road as has happened previously. I have no idea if my bin men are foreign-born. 

So let’s get the new immigration bill out of the traps and when it eventually becomes law and puts an end to EU freedom of movement then, if the mood takes you, stand outside your house and clap like there’s no tomorrow.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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